Lung cancer can be stigmatizing in never-smokers

A new study from JRSM highlights that a significant portion of lung cancer patients are perhaps surprisingly never-smoker. And that the percentage will likely increase as the number of smokers decrease. Unfortunately, never-smokers will often fail to understand that they too can get the disease. Similarly, doctors will often fail to recognize the symptoms of lung cancer in these patients. Furthermore, getting lung-cancer as a never-smoker can be very stigmatizing as the disease is so tightly associated with smoking. Another group facing similar stigma is patients with cirrhosis of the liver who, although they might have an average alcohol consumption, cannot be said to be alcoholics. Unfortunately, that disease is again so closely associated with lifestyle factors that these patients end up being classified as alcoholics by doctors who lack understanding of other possible etymologies for the disease. And if you think that a suspected alcoholic – or even a smoker – will receive the same treatment as non-alcoholics or non-smokers, you are sadly mistaken. We often see a strong bias in the treatment of these patient groups leading to sub-optimal or even lack of treatment.  Non-alcoholic cirrhosis is often associated with earlier viral hepatitis infections. A disease that in itself can be stigmatizing. These days a campaign on social media is addressing the stigmas associated with mental diseases. Maybe it’s time we look at other stigmas too?

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